Jack Be Nimble - The Demise of the Computer Lab
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I still struggle with finding the right balance of computers in labs, mobile computing, carts, etc. for a school. In this blog entry, I'd like to share some of the options I see schools needing to embrace.
An Edutopia article recently found its way into my Evernote Curated Content Notebook on TechMgmt. The title of that article is, The Pros and Cons of Computer Labs. Who couldn't read that title and wonder, If you have to make a list of pros and cons, maybe, their demise isn't so far away in the future?
I couldn't disagree with the introductory points Mary Beth Hertz makes:
Technology lends itself to project-based learning, and this can be hard to manage or coordinate in a classroom that is not conducive to moving furniture or creating space for groups or teams to work. Often, the computer takes up most of the desk or table space, too, so there is less room for teams to work out ideas before creating them on the computer. A lot of this work must be done in the classroom before they get to the lab, which means that, even when groups are ready to start creating on the computer, they must wait until the day they use the computer lab. This interrupts the creative and design process and inserts an artificial break between the work students are doing and the technology they are using.In fact, this was my experience when I was an Accelerated Instruction and Migrant Services (AIMS) teacher and campus technology coordinator one year.
How can we approach teaching and learning with technology differently? The answers to that question are as varied as there are educational technologists around the world, but generally, they fall into several different categories.
- Drill-n-practice, tutorial - This is a computer lab's bread-n-butter, a way of doing what we know doesn't work: Make computers take the place of teachers to drill students. It is usually a top-down solution implemented by Superintendents and Curriculum Departments afraid to invest in their teachers and hold them accountable. Rather, better to use technology that can never be held accountable, not realizing that two or three visits per week by a student for 30 minutes of "instruction" will never yield the desired results--Exemplary scores on your high stakes assessment, GED Online, credit recovery.
- Enhancing Effectiveness of What We Do - Simply, technology is used to accelerate progress, to do things more efficiently, and increase effectiveness. Unfortunately, no one knows how to use technology well enough to achieve the results desired and most end up just doing the bare minimum.
- Project/Problem-based Learning - These two approaches, often confused but more effective, have years of solid research behind them. They simply work but are rarely adopted. You can speculate as to the reasons but I'd suggest that they involve relinquishing control to learners, requiring educators to join those learners in the nitty gritty work of growing.
"Jack be nimble, Jack be quick," goes the old Mother Goose nursery rhyme. "Jack jump over the candlestick." In the end, it's jumping over the candlestick. Being nimble, being quick may play an important part, but it's the last that determines success.
How can schools jump over the candlestick, or rather, surmount the obstacle of having to be ready to handle state-mandated assessments, etc. best suited for a computer lab setting, while preparing students for a host of information-rich, creative and collaborative learning opportunities that span the globe?
Various technologies suggest themselves. The following tries to outline what classroom equipment and eLearning environments will allow school districts:
Equipment and eLearning Environments for Regular/Bilingual/ESL/Special Education Classrooms
|Issued to Teacher||Assigned to Classroom|
|1 to 1 Deployment Options|
Option A - GoogleApps for Education
Option B: iPad with SyncStation - $22,000
|Project-based Learning (PBL)|
Option A - Standard Windows Laptop
Option B - Chromebooks
*Price subject to change per vendor
Recommendations above are based on STaR Chart. All dollar amounts subject to change.
Equipment and eLearning Environments for Teacher-Librarians
|Issued to Teacher||Assigned to Library|
|For Student Use|
*Texas School Library Standards (http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/ld/schoollibs/standards2004.html)
Those standards specify the following:
Library technology infrastructure (including computers) meets the Standards as designated by district and campus STaRCharts at the Target Tech Level, which includes "4 or less students per Internet-connected multimedia computer” [number of students determined by Library capacity], and on-demand access for every student.
Campus Computer Lab Infrastructure
Campus Computer Lab Ratio involves 11 students to 1 computer. This means that for every 1000 students, you have 3 computer labs with 30 computers in it. The purpose of computer labs is to facilitate state assessments and use of state-issued resources.
Here’s what a 11 students to 1 desktop computer lab situation would look like in ECISD schools (Note: Actual Numbers for reporting campuses appears on the next page):
Computers in Labs
Early Childhood Center
*Not typical or based on the student to computer ratio.
With these two tables, I hope to have answered my own question about how many computer labs to put in classrooms, and what kind of options to make available to teachers. There's no doubt that some day, computer labs won't be needed. That day may be a lot sooner than later, given that Pearson is working on an app for Apple's iPad, and there's a Java-based version of TestNav available.
Until the day though that these high stakes assessments run on any type of device--Linux OS, Mac, Windows, iPad, Android--computer labs will remain as the mainstay of any school district's assessment and "curriculum delivery" plan.
Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure